Image Copyright: ©弐瓶勉・講談社／東亜重工動画制作局
And it’s basically Ghost in the Shell meets Mad Max.
BLAME! is set in a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk world where the remnants of humanity live in a giant mega city so wide and so tall that no one knows if it ever ends. However, one thing is for sure: As the process is fully automated, the city continues to grow.
Within the thousands of floors of the city, numerous pockets of humanity struggle to survive. In a world without a sky and only endless floors of metal beneath their feet, amenities such as food and water can be hard to come by. And if that weren’t enough, there’s also the threat of the Safeguards: robotic human-hunting machines tasked with eliminating all humans without the necessary genetic markers—which at this point seems to be literally everyone.
At its most basic level, BLAME! follows the plot structure of many a western and samurai flick—though with a cyberpunk twist. A mysterious stranger wanders into a small town deep in the frontier. The town has a problem and seeks aid from the stranger, but the stranger has his own goals.
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In this case, the mysterious stranger is Killy, a wandering gunman searching for those with the aforementioned genetic markers needed to login to the internet—and thus control the city’s growth. The meager town of 500 lives in an area that seems to be invisible to the Safegaurd death machines, but has hit the limits of scavenging and now faces death by starvation.
While Killy finds no one in the town with the genome he is looking for, he does find Cibo—a human in an ancient, broken robotic body who claims to have found a way to enter the network without the genetic markers thanks to a device she designed.
Thus the three sides—the villagers, Cibo, and Killy—team up to try and solve all their problems by infiltrating an old factory to manufacture the device and gather enough food to sustain the village for the foreseeable future. Needless to say, things don’t quite go as planned.One interesting aspect of the film is that Killy is nearly a silent protagonist. He speaks only a few sentences over the course of the entire film. As we have no access to his internal monologue, we are only able to judge him on his actions—and from them we do certainly get a picture of a man who will help when he can, but will never give up on pursuing his own mission.
Luckily, Cibo is around to give us all a bit more nuance to his character. As her goals and his are so similar, Cibo serves as his voice for much of the film. She is the one to explain why he does what he does and how it is possible. Or, to put it another way, she explains so the villagers (and we) can understand him and the world at large better.
What’s interesting is that the connection between Cibo and Killy is not one of simple friendship or romance. Rather, theirs is a deep, mutual understanding of each other’s most basic nature. On that level, they might as well be the same person. Both are big picture people who understand the need to stay focused on their goals to have even a chance of success. However, this doesn’t mean they don’t care about others or that they go out of their way to be callous. They simply know when to help and when to move on.
The rest of the characters in the film are the archetypical roles you’d expect from the villagers. There is the warrior girl who has a crush on Killy, the jealous guy who won’t trust the mysterious interloper, the village chief who is ready to go out on a limb to save his people, and so on. Each is largely one-note, but we are given enough to know what their motivations are and sympathize with their troubles. And with the limited runtime of the film, it’s probably best to keep it simple when introducing the uninitiated to the world of BLAME!—especially when a large chunk of those characters won’t be making it out of the film alive.
Make no mistake, BLAME! is a brutal, violent story. The world the characters live in is not a kind one and without ever-aging technology like the villager’s exo-suits, death is almost assured—and even with the suits, people can and do die constantly. This raises the stakes of the film dramatically, making it known that no one is safe. And as the film hits its climax, it seems like even Killy and Cibo have bit off more than they can chew.
While BLAME! is based on the manga of the same name, it’s important to note that the film is in no way a direct adaptation. Instead, various plot elements from the manga are taken, reordered, expanded, and merged into a new story. While many of the side characters from the manga appear, their roles are expanded—and they are redesigned visually.
And speaking of the visuals, if you’ve seen Polygon Pictures’ previous science fiction work Knights of Sidonia (also originally created by BLAME! author Tsutomu Nihei), you know what to expect in terms of the film’s 3D animation. The world is rustic and dirty—full of patchwork repairs and countless scratches—and the sci-fi technology is almost otherworldly in its beauty. In other words, the animation fits the tone and fit of the story excellently.
All in all, BLAME! is a fantastic feature length romp through the cyberpunk post-apocalypse. It’s a small tale that introduces us to a much larger world and the hero who one day might save it. If sci-fi action or post-apocalypse stories are your thing, you should not miss out on BLAME!.
Image Copyright: ©弐瓶勉・講談社／東亜重工動画制作局
BLAME! can be viewed on Netflix starting on May 20, 2017.